Liberty County launches new airboat rescue unit

Deputies with the Liberty County Sheriff's Office have completed their training to operate the department's airboat, which allows the sheriff's office to now launch its own airboat rescue unit.

In recent years, the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office has seen an increase in high water rescues throughout the county. Most of these rescues were completed by other law enforcement agencies, fire departments, and even citizens because the sheriff’s office did not have a boat.

Recently the Sheriff’s Office acquired an airboat from Liberty County Pct. 3 Commissioner’s Office that was part of a $77,000 grant through the Texas Department of Agriculture obtained for the County by former commissioner James “Boo” Reaves. The 20-foot-long, 550 HP engine, eight-passenger airboat will be deployed for rescues and other areas that may require maritime law enforcement.

LCSO leaders recognized that special training was needed to operate the airboat as it does not handle like a traditional boat. There is no reverse and control is maintained only by steering coordinated with application or reduction in power.

The Liberty County Sheriff’s Office recently hosted an airboat operator course due to the need for proficient and certified operators. The specialized course is sanctioned by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators and taught by their instructors. The Sheriff’s Office had been trying for a year to send deputies to this specific course but couldn’t due to the high demand and popularity of the class.

On March 26, 2021, deputies from the Liberty County and Chambers County Sheriff Offices completed the airboat operator’s course. The five-day course is geared toward law enforcement and first responders who operate an airboat in a maritime situations.

The course consisted of basic operations, crew and passenger safety, risk management, operational hazards and field repairs. Deputies spend the first few hours in the classroom and the remaining time running the airboat each day.

At the end of the course, there was a comprehensive “practical” instruction where the deputies had to test their learned skills.

LCSO Sheriff Bobby Rader expressed his deep appreciation for not only the instructors and deputies who went through this extensive training but his many thanks also went to Chambers County Sheriff Brian Hawthorne and the Chambers County Sheriff’s Office for their help with this class.

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